Now that we are well into fantasy football draft season, average draft positions, depth charts and rankings have come into clear focus. However, one of the remaining mysteries of every season heading into Week 1 is the rookies.
Here's a secret learned through years of experience: The top fantasy football rookies don't tend to pan out. More often than not, the unheralded rookies wind up coming out of the woodwork.
Let's take a look at how the rookies are likely go off the board in upcoming drafts (using Yahoo! average draft position). Note, we had to eliminate Le'Veon Bell (mid-foot sprain) from the discussion because the previous No. 1-drafted rookie is reportedly going to miss as many as six weeks now. Also, note that Montee Ball is the only one you should really bank on as a starter for your fantasy team coming out of your draft.
1. RB Montee Ball, Denver Broncos (88.1) -- With Bell injured, Ball's now starting to get the bulk of first-team reps in training camp (after Ronnie Hillman's fumble issues). Ball has emerged as the No. 1 rookie to pick, and he's a potential touchdown hog in a potent Broncos offense.
2. RB Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers (84.0) -- He is currently the No. 2 rookie in ADP to the Steelers' Bell, but Ball will retake that status soon. Lacy is now certain to start for the Packers and be their goal-line back, but the Packers just don't value the running game like others. He cannot be picked as a fantasy starter.
3. WR Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams (89.4) -- It has been a quiet preseason for the first receiver drafted this April. The slot man has generated just five catches on nine targets for a mere 40 yards. He won't be a big red-zone target, or a real field-stretcher, so don't expect fantasy-starter-quality numbers right away.
4. RB Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals (102.8) -- The first running back picked this April is going off the board one pick before the Bengals starter at the position, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. If not for BGE leading a time-share as the starter and goal-line back, Bernard would be the most highly-sought rookie in fantasy. As it is, he should be picked as a reserve option and BGE backup.
5. WR Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots (124.7) -- He has stolen the show at Patriots camp and is coming off a huge preseason Week 3, generally regarded as the dress rehearsal for the season. Thompkins shapes up to be Tom Brady's favorite target after Danny Amendola, at least until Rob Gronkowski returns.
The next five of the board using Yahoo! ADP: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN (125.3); RB Johnathan Franklin, GB (125.3); RB Zac Stacy, STL (126.4); WR Robert Woods, BUF (126.4); WR DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (126.7).
Rookies in SI.com's Top 300
We obviously don't have to agree with Yahoo! draft ADPs. Here are the top rookies by position in SI.com's Top 300. You can highlight these names on SI.com's handy printable cheat sheet as well and carry with it with you to your draft.
|Top rookie quarterbacks|
Honorable mention: Jeff Tuel. If Manual cannot go Week 1, Tuel, the undrafted free agent out of Washington State might be the opening-week starter. He isn't a viable fantasy prospect in the near or long term.
|Top rookie running backs|
|Top rookie wide receivers|
|Top rookie tight ends|
|Top rookie kickers|